I couldn’t get the play so I don’t know if the line “Shoot straight you bastards. Don’t make a mess of it.” is from the original play.

My Top 10

  1. Breaker Morant
  2. Ordinary People
  3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  4. The Elephant Man
  5. The Shining
  6. Tess
  7. Airplane!
  8. Raging Bull
  9. My Brilliant Career
  10. The Stunt Man

note:  Originally the 1969 version of The Brothers Karamazov, which finally earned a U.S. release in 1980 was my #10.  But after having the true adaptation aspect of Airplane! pointed out by various commenters, I have moved it to Adapted.

Consensus Nominees:

  1. Ordinary People  (192 pts)
  2. The Elephant Man  (152 pts)
  3. Airplane!  (120 pts)
  4. The Stunt Man  (112 pts)
  5. The Coal Miner’s Daughter  (80 pts)

note:  Losing the Globe and not earning a BAFTA nom, Ordinary People has the lowest Consensus score for a winner since 1974.  There won’t be another Consensus winner with just 3 noms until 1986, not one with a Consensus score this low until 1987 and not one with a Consensus percentage this low (21.05%) until 2016.

Oscar Nominees  (Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium):

  • Ordinary People
  • Breaker Morant
  • The Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • The Elephant Man
  • The Stunt Man

WGA Awards:

Adapted Drama:

  • Ordinary People
  • The Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • The Elephant Man
  • The Great Santini
  • The Stunt Man

Adapted Comedy:

  • Airplane!
  • Hopscotch
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

note:  The WGA nominated just 3 in Comedy and would not nominate any more than that through the last year of this category in 1983.

Golden Globe:

  • The Ninth Configuration
  • The Elephant Man
  • Ordinary People
  • Raging Bull
  • The Stunt Man

Nominees that are Original:  none
note:  This is the only time between 1972 and 2008 that all five Globe nominees are adapted.

BAFTA:

  • Airplane!
  • The Elephant Man

note:  These are the only two 1980 films to earn BAFTA nominations.  The other two nominees were both from 1979.

My Top 10

 

‘Breaker’ Morant

The Film:

I think you would find a wide consensus that Peter Weir was the best director to emerge from the Australian New Wave but there is probably at least a decent consensus (not as strong, given Gallipoli and Picnic at Hanging Rock) that Breaker Morant is actually the best film to emerge though.  More interestingly, it is the rare Australian New Wave film that was actually acknowledged by the Academy (nominated for Adapted Screenplay).  It’s a great film at least partially because it does not try to shy away from the actions that the men involved in the story committed but places it in an overall larger setting and make our own decisions.  I have already reviewed the film in full here because it is one of the five best films of 1980.

The Source:

Breaker Morant: A Play in Two Acts by Kenneth G. Ross  (1978)

Unfortunately, while the film is easy to find, the play is less easy and I was unable to get hold of it.  Given the numerous flashbacks in the film, I suspect that several changes were made and that perhaps the play focused much more so on the trial itself (the cast list seems to support that) but I can’t be certain.

The Adaptation:

Since I wasn’t able to read the play, I can’t really speak to the adaptation, but as I wrote above, I suspect that most of the scenes that take place outside of the courtroom (or their prison) weren’t in the original play.  Certainly there is no cast listing for any of the men that they were tried for killing.

The Credits:

Directed by Bruce Beresford.  Screenplay by Jonathan Hardy, David Stevens, Bruce Beresford.  Adapted from the play ‘Breaker’ Morant by Kenneth Ross.

Ordinary People

The Film:

This is the second year in a row that the Oscar winning script (and Best Picture) comes in second.  What they also have in common is that they have often been downgraded over the years by many critics because they won over significantly better films with enduring critical appeal by significant auteur directors (Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull), yet both of them are truly great, moving family dramas that should not be overlooked.  This film, in particular, seems to be more moving the more times I see it, though, because it is such a downer, I really only watch it for projects like these.  It is exquisitely acted by everyone in involved in the film and since Joe Pesci would later win an Oscar I don’t begrudge the Academy giving one to Timothy Hutton here.  What’s more, credit for taking two comedic television performers (Moore and Hirsch) and convincingly turning them into dramatic film performers.  By the way, a long review can be found here.

The Source:

Ordinary People by Judith Guest  (1976)

Like the film, every time I see it, this novel ended up being more moving than I remembered it.  I owned it years ago but got rid of it in a purge (it also was missing a signature and had one in there twice – it’s something you come across if you work around books long enough).  But it’s fairly well written and like the film convincingly creates its characters.  There’s not really a single false moment in this moving novel about a boy is trying to deal with his own failed suicide attempt (after not being able to prevent his perfect older brother from drowning) and the disintegration of the basic family unit because of this.

The Adaptation:

This is an extremely faithful adaptation of the original novel.  Almost every key moment in the book is replicated on film faithfully and there is almost nothing in the film that hadn’t already been in the book.

The Credits:

Directed by Robert Redford.  Based on the Novel by Judith Guest.  Screenplay by Alvin Sargent,

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The Film:

I have already reviewed this film as one of the best films of 1980.  Of course it is a lot more than that, is one of the best sequels ever made, a massive crowd-pleaser that also happens to be a truly great film.  I had thought that perhaps I could write a bit on the script and how brilliant it is, how it brings in a larger measure of comedy than the first film and provides any number of classic lines and scenes, but it appears that I already covered that quite well in the original review.  Suffice it to say, it is still one of my favorite films of all-time and quite probably the film I have seen the second most times in my life behind only the original Star Wars.

The Source:

Star Wars, written and directed by George Lucas (1977)

I don’t need to write anything more here, of course, because I have reviewed this film multiple times and because just by clicking on the Star Wars tag on the blog you can see how many times it has come up over the years and how much it has dominated my life.  Hell, I’m even wearing a Star Wars shirt as I type this.  But if you want to find the actual reviews go here.

The Adaptation:

The film moves perfectly on, of course, from the way the characters were developed in the first film, with Leia’s haughty personality slowly melting, Han’s lovable rogue becoming a bit more lovable to Leia and Luke still being the forthright hero.  The big revelation, of course, that Vader is Luke’s father, works well against everything that was established in the first film.  We also get hints of things that happened in between the films that influence the characters (“The bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell changed my mind.”).  If you watch this after watching all of the films in order, there are a few things that seem out of place (R2 would certainly know who Yoda is) and there are a few nice little Easter eggs (Yoda’s hut is made from the remnant of his escape pod, C-3PO’s comment about “I don’t know where your ship learned to communicate but it has the most peculiar form of dialect” is wonderful in light of Solo) but the film still fits in perfectly where it originally was.  It is hard to reconcile Yoda saying “No, there is another” to seemingly contradict Obi-Wan but it still works.

The Credits:

Directed by Irvin Kershner.  Screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan.  Story by George Lucas.

The Elephant Man

The Film:

I have already reviewed the film as a Best Picture nominee of 1980.  Part of what I wrote in my review was a direct rebuttal to Roger Ebert’s rather negative review of the film from when it first came out because I felt that Ebert kind of missed the point of the film.  You’re actually better off reading Pauline Kael’s review of the film.  This is a great film, most notably in Hurt’s performance the cinematography and the wonderful haunting score (which I first heard on a Movie Themes tape I bought before I ever saw the film).

The Sources:

The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Sir Frederick Treves (1924) and The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montagu (1971)

I spent quite a while trying to hunt down the Treves book before just deciding it wasn’t happening and getting the Montagu book (which my local library system had).  I then opened the Montagu book and discovered that Montagu had read the Treves book when it was first published and then, starting in 1940, labored to find it, unsuccessfully.  Finally, he had it reprinted with his own notes on what Treves had learned.  So, this is the Treves book as well.  Huzzah!

The book is fascinating in that we get Treves’ original notes on John Merrick (with a few footnotes from Montagu concerning facts on Merrick’s life that were learned later) and then Montagu’s own observations and deductions about Merrick.  It’s an interesting little book but honestly, the film does such a good job of recreating Merrick, that you can get by just fine with only watching the film.

The Adaptation:

It was interesting that the film went back to the book and ignored the then very successful play by Bernard Pomerance (according to Inside Oscar “Brooks got away with it because Merrick’s story was in the public domain, but the movie producer did make a settlement out of court with the Broadway producers who claimed that Brooks had ruined the film sale of their play” but let’s remember that Inside Oscar has a lot of errors and no sources) which has been a hit on stage with such stars as David Bowie, Mark Hamill and Bradley Cooper.  Instead, the script follows from the original books.  They do a remarkable job of taking the books and bringing them to the screen, with almost everything we read in the book coming to life on-screen.  However, they also decided that there clearly wasn’t enough drama because much of the second half of the film (Merrick being kidnapped from the hospital, the nasty orderly, Merrick being hounded in the train station) never happened.  It’s interesting that so much of the first half (Traves first seeing Merrick, tracking him down, getting him settled in the hospital) is so accurate and they just decided to make their own story for the second half.

The Credits:

Directed by David Lynch.  Screenplay by Christopher De Vore, Eric Bergren, David Lynch.  Based upon The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences by Sir Frederick Treves and in part on The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity by Ashley Montage.

The Shining

The Film:

I have a long and complicated history with this film and my first thought this time, watching it for who knows how many times, was “wow, Mount Hood must have had a hell of a dry summer when this was filmed because I don’t remember ever seeing it that light on snow before”.  My bedroom at my parents’ house in Oregon was positioned, for a stretch, where, waking up from my bed, if the cloud cover wasn’t too bad, I could sit up and stare straight at the sun rising over Mount Hood (I faced a mirror which faced a window which faced due east looking at the mountain).  It was in that bedroom where I was living when I first read The Shining in the summer of 1993, along with all of King’s books that I hadn’t then read.  It would be another ten years before I would finally see the film but that was actually deliberate.  I was already a film lover and even by 1993 knew how much I worshipped Kubrick, having already seen Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket.  So why the decade long wait?  Because I wanted to see it in full.  I kept always coming across it on television, after it had already started and turning it off because I wanted to see it from start to finish.  So it wasn’t until 2003, when I started my Great Director project and Kubrick was one of the three directors I started with, in part so I could finally have a good excuse to just sit down and watch The Shining (the other two were Wilder and Hitchcock while I deliberately saved Lean and Kurosawa for the end).  Maybe because I didn’t see the film until 2003 explains why I never went up to Timberline Lodge, where those establishing exterior shot of the hotel were filmed (without Kubrick, who never actually left England, while outtakes of the shots of the car driving up to the hotel were eventually re-used as the ending shots for Blade Runner).

I think I was nervous about seeing the film because I had heard mixed things about it over the years.  Certainly by 2003, Stephen King was well-known for his dislike of the film and he had it remade for television in 1997 (which was supposed to be a disaster and which I have never bothered to see – Steven Webber as Jack Torrance? are you fucking kidding me?).  King believed that Torrance was insane because there was already issues in his past (he thought that made it more effective while Kubrick didn’t – see below) but Kubrick establishes that there are evil and supernatural forces at work here and they aren’t always intertwined.  He gives us slow establishing shots that help us know the ground we are treading upon before the supernatural comes in, slowly moving in on young Danny in his bedroom talking to the mirror or the way the sound cuts out when he first meets Dick, the kindly old chef who has a gift of his own (and who is played brilliantly by Scatman Crothers – if there’s a weakness in the film it’s that Nicholson so dominates it that everyone looks weak by comparison, but Crothers is solid in his small but important role).

Kubrick’s film is one of the most genuinely frightening films ever made.  It is brilliant in the way it uses the horror of its situations, of ghosts and madness and cabin fever, to inform the horror rather than relying on such things for payoffs.  There are moments that continue to resonate through film history, like young Danny riding around the hotel on his Big Wheel, with the camera following behind them, with the blood pouring out of the elevator (prompting what is probably still my favorite moment in over 30 years of The Simpsons: “That’s odd; usually the blood gets off at the second floor”) or Jack pounding his way through the door with the axe.  In fact, before I was ever old enough to actually watch The Tonight Show, I was familiar with the notion of Jack Nicholson barreling through a door with an axe and saying “here’s Johnny!” (another moment brilliantly nailed in what is probably the best ever “Treehouse of Horror”).

Kubrick’s film is not a film for today’s Horror audiences, for those who want a quick scare and a scream and someone being chopped up.  It develops slowly and then it pays off in magnificent ways.  Just look at the scene with the woman in the tub, the way it slowly moves in and only towards the end do we realize the horror of what is going on at the same time that Jack does.

This is easily one of the greatest Horror films ever made and if it’s stuck way down at #8 on my list for 1980, it has the misfortune of being in a year that is truly phenomenal and really deserves to have more focus placed upon it.

The Source:

The Shining by Stephen King (1977)

It’s interesting that in his 2001 introduction to the novel that Stephen King talks about making the leap with this novel specifically because he tried to infuse Jack Torrance, the poor man who goes insane and tries to murder his wife and son with a back history of abuse from his father.  The interesting bit about that is that this novel does move King forward, much as Salem’s Lot had moved him forward from Carrie.  I think there are few people who wouldn’t rank this among the best of King’s novels – not at the same level as The Stand or It, but definitely up there (if I considered The Dark Tower all one novel, The Shining would definitely be in the Top 5).  But I think the scenes where King focuses back on Jack’s early life and the way he loved his father while taking abuse from him are among the weakest in the book.  Everyone sees darkness in real life.  It was the supernatural horror, the real terror at the heart of the hotel and the way it moves Jack towards the darkness in his own soul that is the power of the novel, not that he had the darkness in his soul to begin with.

Either way you want to look at it, this is a solid horror film, a supernatural terror that makes you fear for the life of its characters with a building that comes to life vividly in the pages and makes you wonder what further damage it might inflict before it comes to its horrid end.  From the minute that Carrie was released in paperback, King was a best-selling author but it was really here, just like he thought, that he started to become a real writer.

The Adaptation:

Stephen King is known for disliking the film, commenting in that introduction on how he and Kubrick came to different conclusions about what was pushing Jack Torrance towards murder.

I will just say that King can interpret the novel any way he wants because he wrote it and if he feels that this isn’t the Torrance that he wrote, that’s fine.  But as much as I have enjoyed reading King’s work over the years, I am firmly with Kubrick on this one.  Kubrick’s Jack is far more interesting and especially better suited for a film.

I won’t say much more than that.  This is a film that has an extensive history of people comparing the film version to the original novel and you can actually find a detailed look at various parts of the film and the novel and the ways in which they differ on the film’s Wikipedia page.

The Credits:

Produced and Directed by Stanley Kubrick.  Based upon the novel by Stephen King.  Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick & Diane Johnson.

Tess

The Film:

I have reviewed this film twice already.  The first time was in 2010 when I wrote about it as an adaptation of the novel when I placed the novel in my Top 100 (see link below).  The second time was just a year later when I covered 1980 in my History of the Academy Awards: Best Picture series.  In both, I mention the darkness of the story (Hardy’s naturalism makes his novels among the bleakest to read while his command of language and character and plot make him one of the most brilliant novelists who ever lived), Polanski’s command of the darkness of the material and how the film has to suffer at the Nighthawk Awards because 1980 is an under-appreciated year of truly great films.  The categories in which this film shines the brightest (Picture, Director, Cinematography – the latter winning an Oscar) are the categories in which this year is among the best (especially Cinematography – I rank this as the single greatest year for Cinematography in film history with a Top 5 above any other).  It is a great film, not just because of the source material, but because Polanski treated the source material properly, giving it a running time worthy of the subject (three hours) so that he didn’t have to rush through anything.

The Source:

Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented by Thomas Hardy  (1891)

One of the great novels of all-time (I ranked it at #60 in my Top 100 and you can read a larger piece on it here).  It is all the more remarkable at how amazing a read it is when you consider how incredible depressing it is.  Poor Tess is doomed from the start, as could be expected from Hardy, but we are captivated as we watch her move towards her doom.

The Adaptation:

“I think it’s a superfluous epilogue that Thomas Hardy probably added later.  At the time he wrote it, books were often serialized or published in separate chapters, and I always felt the epilogue didn’t fit with the rest of the story.  But I don’t have any reverence or religious respect for the novel in its entirety.  I’m just very keen on it, maybe because Sharon was the one who first gave it to me.  Anyway, unless we wanted an eight-hour film, we had to cut the novel down.”  Polanski, in response to a question about his not including the epilogue where Tess is sentenced to death in Roman Polanski Interviews, p 82.

I honestly have no idea what that’s about.  Is he talking about just cutting the final page where she is executed which is given in a postscript anyway?  And Polanski didn’t really have to cut that much of the book to get it to fit – he did a magnificent job of keeping the plot elements of the book while not losing characters elements either.

The Credits:

Directed by Roman Polanski.  Based on the novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.  Screenplay: Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn.

Airplane!

The Film:

Is this the funniest film ever made?  On my own list it would sit at the very least behind Monty Python and the Holy Grail and A Fish Called Wanda but it is definitely high up there.  Yet, it is also a matter of personal taste as one of my closest friends from high school went through the whole film with barely a laugh (except for the Air Israel joke and I feel I should point out that she’s Jewish) and Veronica adamantly insists that this film is just not that funny but Veronica also thinks puns are funny.

The Zucker brothers and their friend Jim Abrahams had made one feature film before this, the very uneven The Kentucky Fried Movie.  That film had parodied a lot of film tropes but was just a bunch of sketches put together, some of which worked really well (Big Jim Slade) and some of which didn’t.  But here, instead of just creating their own full-length film they would take an old Paramount film (see below) and essentially remake it, even keeping a lot of the dialogue.  But dialogue can mean different things depending on tone. In Zero Hour, people were serious.  In Airplane they attempt to be serious and they fail.

There a lot of little sight gags in the film, some of them funny (“They’re on instruments!”), some of them crass (the shit hitting the fan) and some of them just dumb.  But the film is consistently funny partially because it never stops trying and it gets original in a variety of ways.  It’s one thing to have subtitles for two guys who are speaking “jive” but much funnier when June Cleaver herself offers to help (“Excuse me, stewardess. I speak Jive.”)  That this film would give completely new careers to the likes of Leslie Nielson and Lloyd Bridges shows just how successful it was at trying to be serious and failing.

Mel Brooks had been doing parodies for several years at this point but this film really opened the gates.  After making Top Secret, the teams would split and we would get the Hot Shots and Naked Gun franchises with mixed results and after that, the parodies would start coming hard and fast (from others) and almost none of them would be funny.  This film works so well because of how it is structured, giving a real story from the original film and then putting its own little twists on it.

I will just say that people have to find what makes them laugh.  This film makes me laugh.  Most of all, it makes me laugh because of things that aren’t necessarily the most obvious.  Like, what the hell war was Ted Stryker in, because certain parts are like Vietnam, certain parts like World War II and certain parts are just ridiculous.  Or since they’re flying a jet plane why do we always hear propellers?  Because it’s funny, that’s why.

The Source:

Zero Hour!, directed by Hall Bartlett, screenplay by Arthur Hailey, Hall Bartlett, John Champion, from a story by Arthur Hailey (1957)

One criticism that has been launched at various films over the years (I think I’ve seen at least a couple of times when Roger Ebert used it) is that the script is so ridiculous that you could film a parody without actually changing the screenplay.  So what does it say about Zero Hour! that a considerable portion of the screenplay ended up in Airplane! verbatim and that Airplane! is one of the funniest films ever made?  Surprisingly, it doesn’t say as much negatively about Zero Hour! as you might think.  Zero Hour! is not a great film, namely because it is difficult (though not impossible, obviously, given The Best Years of Our Lives) to make a great film with Dana Andrews as the lead.  Andrews is not all that good of an actor but he does a credible enough job as a pilot haunted by his actions during the war who is counted upon to save a plane full of people when many of them, including both pilots, are stricken by food poisoning.  It does have Sterling Hayden in a suitable Hayden performance as his former commander who is brought in to try and help talk him through the flight (he has experience as a pilot but not with this type of plane, plus he has his shellshock from the war).  Given how many times I have seen Airplane! over the years and how well I know all the lines, it’s amazing that I didn’t just bust out laughing but that’s actually the brilliance of the Airplane! filmmakers at work (see below).  This film is not all that good but it’s not all that bad either and it ends up as a mid **.5.

The Adaptation:

As is obvious from the fact that I listed this as an original script for so long, I wasn’t even aware for a long time that this film wasn’t so much a parody of the Airport films as an actual remake of a film with certain things changed, including, most importantly, the tone.  But if you know Airplane well enough and you start to watch Zero Hour you are going to be stunned to realize how often you are hearing actual lines of dialogue that you are used to from Airplane.  The entire basic premise of the film (shellshocked war vet has to fly a plane with his wife on it after the pilots are made sick by bad fish and then because of bad weather has to go all the way to the original destination) is kept completely intact as well as a lot of lines.  But then, of course, there are all the hilarious additions and changes (the innocent questions between the pilot and boy take a very weird turn in Airplane, for example) that make this film so hilarious.  Just look at how “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking” in the first film becomes such a great running gag in the second.

The Credits:

Written for the Screen and Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker.

Raging Bull

The Film:

Generally lauded as one of the greatest films of all-time and certainly lauded as one of the greatest films of the 80’s if not the best film of the decade (this sentence brought to you specifically so that F.T. can be annoyed by it).  A brilliant rendition of film as character and direction rather than story-telling which is why the screenplay is as far down the list as it is (and wasn’t nominated at the Oscars), the film beats you senseless not with boxing but with rage and jealousy.  De Niro’s performance is rightly lauded as one of the greatest in film history and often used as the example of what method actors will do for their craft.

The Source:
Raging Bull by Jake La Motta with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage (1970)

This is much more readable than you would expect from a boxer’s autobiography but La Motta didn’t just try the ghost writer routine but instead actually had two different credited co-writers.  I haven’t been able to find much about Joseph Carter but Peter Savage is a pseudonym for Frank Patrella, a childhood friend of La Motta who had written a screenplay about him in 1963 and would attempt another a few years after the book was published.  It’s a decently written but pretty unpleasant read because La Motta was a very unlikeable man who chummed around with gangsters, beat people to a pulp and then never understood why the world didn’t love him.  He complains about a tribute to Sugar Ray Robinson that he wasn’t invited to even though he beat Robinson and lived within walking distance but in the next line mentions that he threw a fight and that it’s the cardinal sin of sports.  I can understand why Robert De Niro would want to make the film but I’m with Scorsese in that I would have refused to make it (as he initially did) and don’t understand the appeal of boxing.

The Adaptation:

“After reading Mardik’s draft, Schrader concluded that more was needed than just a fix.  He knew he had to go back to the sources, do his own research.  It was then that he discovered Jake’s brother, Joey.  Recalls Schrader, ‘They were both boxers. Joey was younger, better looking, and a real smooth talker.  It occurred to Joey that he could do better at managing his brother.  He wouldn’t have to get beat up, he’d still get the girls, and he would get the money.  And having a brother myself, it was very easy for me to tap into that tension.'” (Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind, p 385)

I don’t know how accurate that is since Biskind is known for making shit up.  But the Joey in the film is very different than the one in the book and takes on roles that he didn’t have (the beating and the asking for forgiveness years later happened with La Motta’s friend Pete, not with his brother Joey).  In fact, while the book deals with La Motta’s whole life and his boxing career doesn’t start until halfway through, the film just starts with the career.  Very little of what is in the film came from the original book and I suspect almost all of it came from Schrader’s own research and things they decided to change to fit the film rather than La Motta’s own history.

The Credits:

Directed by Martin Scorsese.  Based on the book by Jake La Motta with Joseph Carter and Peter Savage.  Screenplay by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin.

My Brilliant Career

The Film:

She’s a bit of a precocious teenager.  She has an idea that she wants to be something more than is expected of her.  She thinks she could even maybe grow up to be a writer.  She doesn’t want the provincial life of her parents and even when two different men seem to show an interest, what she most cares about is being able to live her independent life.  There is a slight problem, though.  For one thing, she is only a teenager.  Second, she is also a she, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, if not for the fact that we’re way in the Australian outback and it’s still the dawn of the 20th Century.  She’s a modern woman with modern ideas but she is not yet living in a modern world.

Her name is Sybylla and she is played by Judy Davis in a performance that is a considerable revelation.  Davis had a supporting role in a small Australian film (High Rolling) but this was really her coming-out party.  Even this wouldn’t really do it and she wouldn’t be particularly well known outside of Australia until A Passage to India in 1984.  But this where she really comes into her own.  Her Sybylla is strong-willed and passionate and she is not going to be stuck learning manners from her grandmother or teaching school to some children that her father owes money to or even being the wife of a rich young, handsome man (played by Sam Neill, who had made more films than Davis at this point but also wasn’t that well known yet).

My Brilliant Career has an interesting place in the Australian New Wave because of the way it embraces not only Australia and its literary history but the place of gender in that history.  The film is based on a novel by Miles Franklin, a female writer who wrote the book at 16, published it at 21 and was so displeased by its reception that she forbade its republication until she had been dead 10 years (part of what displeased her was the way that critics latched onto to its obvious roots in her biography).  She used a male name to publish the book and it seems appropriate that Gillian Armstrong, directing her first film (in a very strong career that would include Little Women and Oscar and Lucinda) would use the male-sounding name Gill Armstrong in the credits.  In a world where women were so rarely allowed to come into their own, so many women involved in this film came into their own.

The Source:

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (1901)

As mentioned above, Miles Franklin is actually a female (her full name is Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin).  She wrote the book at age 16 and though she would be bothered by the biographical criticism (and I’m no fan of it myself), it was clearly at least derived from her experience growing up in the Australian outback with a family that clearly had no interest in wanting her to be a writer (though both Franklin and her character of Sybylla had every intention of being successful as the title My Brilliant Career makes plain).  It’s a solid novel, quite remarkable when you consider not only the age of the author but the amount of education that she had been allowed to complete as well, the story of a young woman determined to be her own woman and to be a writer.

The reaction to the book would cause Franklin to decide not to have the book reprinted until she had been dead for 10 years (1965) and though she would write a sequel to this book before too long (My Career Goes Bung) that would also have a long delay before publication (1946).

The Adaptation:

A quite faithful adaptation of the original novel that sticks very closely not only to the story and the characters but to the language as well.

The Credits:

Director: Gill Armstrong.  Screenplay: Eleanor Witcombe.  Adapted from the Novel by Miles Franklin.

The Stunt Man

The Film:

Sometimes films take you out of a suspension of disbelief not because of implausibilities in the plot or problems with characters but because of trivial things that are personal.  Take Knight and Day, the terrible Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz film.  It’s true that the stupid plot of that film would have done it anyway, but what really did took me out was when they are driving down by Lechmere and are suddenly, in the next shot, up on the Zakim Bridge.  Anyone who lives in Boston knows that’s ridiculous.  This film suffers from a similar thing although, first, it’s not the movie’s fault, because it’s not implying the reality and second, it only takes me out because it’s personal.  Early on in the film, a convict is running from the police in some rural area, fleeing a diner and ending up on a bridge where he may or may not have caused a stunt man shooting a film to die.  But then, after a bizarre wipe, he’s crawling over rocks to the Hotel Del Coronado, one of my favorite places in the world and which I have known my whole life because my mother was raised two blocks from it and I spent countless hours at my grandparents house, looking at the hotel (or down at those rocks, looking at the hotel).  It’s such a bizarre jump, but the movie doesn’t state that this is San Diego and so it’s not the movie’s fault it takes me out so much but it does.

Which is a shame because for the most part, this is really a good film.  It is certainly not a flawless film and the key flaw to the film is not the one that jolts me in the early going but the performance from Steve Railsback as the convict who is then blackmailed by the imperious director of the film into replacing the dead stunt man.  That’s where the movie really picks up because the director is played by Peter O’Toole in a brilliant performance that he based on David Lean (and only doesn’t make my Top 5 for the year because this is a fantastic year for Best Actor).  Every time that O’Toole appears on camera, he takes the film over.  He makes you overlook Railsback’s questionable performance.

O’Toole’s performance isn’t the only good thing about this film.  Richard Rush, who spent most of his career directing crappy films, does a fantastic job with this film (he even co-wrote it as well).  Rush earned two Oscar nominations for a film that almost didn’t even get released.  It was filmed in 1978, mostly at the Hotel Del (sadly, I wasn’t around, since I was still in New York in 1978) being used as the set by the director for a World War I film.  But the film within a film isn’t important.  It’s all about the way that the director rules the scene, hovering overhead in a helicopter, letting the crane carry him around even when there is no scene being filmed.  The score comes in as well, a fantastic score that really matches the action from O’Toole.

O’Toole, of course, never won an Oscar.  He had the bad luck of going up against Gregory Peck in 1962 for his iconic performance as Atticus Finch and somehow got overlooked in 1968 for Cliff Robertson.  He scored a surprise nomination here, a surprise not because his performance wasn’t worth it but because the film was so little seen; he never stood a chance against De Niro.  But look at his performance here and compare it to his performance as the drunk movie star in My Favorite Year just two years later and you can see how perfectly O’Toole understands all the different personalities on a film and why he was always one of the best, even if the Academy never came through for him.

The Source:

The Stunt Man by Paul Brodeur (1970)

A young army conscript is assigned to walk down the road and call the base and let them know the bus has a flat.  Instead, he takes off on his own, fleeing the army and comes upon a car that almost runs him over.  It turns out he’s stumbled onto a movie being filmed and he accidentally causes the death of the stunt man.  So the director kind of blackmails him into becoming the stunt man himself.  There are some adventures as he wonders if the director is trying to kill him just to get the perfect stunt.  Overall, kind of a weak book that seemed destined to be made into a movie.  It didn’t need to be as long as it is if that was the goal (at 278 pages it’s got way more than is necessary for a two hour film) and isn’t really all that good because you just want to see what’s going on and it focuses too much on the stunt man himself who is kind of boring.

The Adaptation:

Richard Rush, a director who toiled along making terrible films, really found his role here.  He cut through the book, keeping as much of the stunt man as was necessary and instead focused more on the crazed director determined to rule over his set.  As such, a lot of the details in the book are dropped or changed (including that the stunt man was originally an escaping draftee rather than a convict as well as the ending).  The basic premise remains the same as do some of the details but the film is a vastly superior version.

The Credits:

Produced & Directed by Richard Rush.  Screenplay by Lawrence B. Marcus.  Adaptation by Richard Rush.  From the Novel by Paul Brodeur.

Consensus Nominee

 

Coal Miner’s Daughter

The Film:

I have reviewed this film once already as one of the Best Picture nominees.  I’m not a big fan of the film because the story itself is kind of boring.  Loretta Lynn, after she managed to become successful didn’t really have any drama in her life.  Yes, Spacek gives a great performance (though she shouldn’t have won over Moore) but there just isn’t a whole lot going on Lynn’s life and not enough to justify a biopic.

The Source:

Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn with George Vecsey  (1976)

Much like the film, there isn’t a whole lot to this.  Lynn got married very young, had a bunch of kids, wrote her own songs (credit where credit’s due because she complains in the book that many people don’t give her credit for that) and became the most successful country singer of her time.  The only real drama was Patsy Cline and then she died in a plane crash.  It’s not a bad book because Vecsey was a professional writer but unless you’re really interested in Lynn’s life (and I’m not), it’s just a quick boring read.

One little note on the book: in it, Lynn says that she will not reveal her age, being tired of that question.  She simply says that FDR had been president for a while when she was born.  Which is actually a complete lie, presumably to make her seem much younger than she was because she was apparently born in early 1932 before FDR was even elected.

The Adaptation:

The only notable event in the film that isn’t in the book is when Loretta first watches Dolittle trying to drive the jeep up the hill on a bet.  After that (including being the first person to drive anything to her house), most of it comes straight from the book with the songs really providing a lot of the screen time where there’s not much of a story.

The Credits:

directed by Michael Apted.  based on the autobiography by Loretta Lynn with George Vecsey.  screenplay by Tom Rickman.

Golden Globe Winner

 

The Ninth Configuration

The Film:

I have said this about films before and I don’t mind saying it again.  Perhaps I am the wrong person to review this film.  I say that because it was nominated for Best Picture and actually won Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes.  How such an incomprehensible mess could be considered worthy of any award outside of a Razzie is so beyond my comprehension that it makes me wonder if this film just wasn’t made for me.  But then again, who was it made for?  And what the hell kind of film is it, anyway?

I list this film as a Horror film.  But is it, really?  There are a lot of horrific aspects about it but do I really just throw it there because it was written and directed by William Peter Blatty, the author of The Exorcist and because I don’t know how the hell I should classify it?  The IMDb lists it as a Comedy and a Drama.  TSPDT lists it as a Drama in their initial list (thankfully it doesn’t make the Top 2000) but they also list it as being from 1979 so who knows where they get their data.  The poster for the film itself says “somewhere between mystery and terror” so I guess I’m okay with Horror.  But really, it’s just dreck.

A bunch of crazy Marines are being kept at an asylum.  Except that armed forces don’t have asylums.  And they certainly don’t have ones that are kept in European castles.  Yes, I suppose we’re meant to believe that this castle is in the United States but it is so obviously a European castle that from the very first shot of the film we have lost any suspension of disbelief.

What to say about the plot of this film?  Well, a new commanding officer has arrived at the asylum.  Or maybe he’s not the head, maybe he’s just another patient who just thinks he’s the head, because of course that’s brilliant psychological reasoning.  Maybe the real head is the old head who is also the brother of the new c.o. who may also be a completely demented killer who slaughters everyone in a biker bar but of course they were asking for it after trying to rape the man who was supposed to go the moon but freaked out in the capsule and has been here ever since even though if he was an astronaut he would have been transferred from the Marine Corps to the authority of NASA.  But where the hell would logic be in a film like this?  Out of place, that’s where.

This movie is a mess of everything it tries, from story to character to psychology.  You could embrace it or you could just avoid it.  Care to guess which I advise?

The Source:

The Ninth Configuration by William Peter Blatty

You know what, Blatty?  Fuck you.  “When I was young and worked very hastily and from need, I wrote a novel called Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane!  Its basic concept was surely the best I have ever created, but what was published was just as surely no more than the notes for a novel – some sketches, unformed, unfinished, lacking even a plot.  But the idea mattered to me, so once again I have written a novel based on it.  This time I know it is the best that I can do.”  Okay, first of all, you were 38 when you published this, had already published a novel and you had the time to devote to that because you won $10,000 on You Bet Your Life and quit your job.  So you wrote a shitty book and later, when you were much more successful thanks to The Exorcist, you re-wrote your shitty book.  There’s no good idea in it and if this was the best you could do, you didn’t deserve to be a published writer.

The Adaptation:

Much of the film comes from the novel, or at least this version of the novel even though in certain markets the film was actually released under the title of the original novel (thus the poster above).  It doesn’t have the confusing ending but for the most part, much of what happens in the film happened in the novel.

What is most annoying about this is that I was wrong what I wrote in my 1971 post about Dalton Trumbo’s complete authorship of the film version of Johnny Got His Gun because I forgot about this piece of shit.  So, we have another example of a writer who is also the screenwriter and director, so he completely owns the film.  You own this shit, Blatty.

The Credits:

Written and Directed by William Peter Blatty.

WGA Nominees

 

The Great Santini

The Film:

“This movie is essentially a comedy, a serious, tender one, like Breaking Away.”  That’s Roger Ebert writing and I don’t know that I could disagree with him more on this one.  I actually have a fairly broad view of what constitutes a comedy and this film doesn’t fall into it in any way, shape or form.  This is a rather disturbing drama about a man who is so in love with the military life that he lets it rule over his home life as well, bullying his family into doing what he feels needs to be done.  That he has missed his real calling in the military, unable to properly follow orders and being a disgrace himself in spite of making it to colonel never seems to dawn upon him.

There are two performances that really make this film.  The first is from Michael O’Keefe as the bullied son who desperately both loves and hates his father, wants to impress him and never see him again, who wishes for his love and his death at the same time.  That O’Keefe gave this performance just a few months before giving such a completely different performance in Caddyshack gave hope that he would really become a solid actor but while he has continued to work for the last four decades since then he has never lived up to that potential.  The better performance, of course, is from Robert Duvall and it’s easy to remember that this was made in the same year as Apocalypse Now playing a different colonel but one who’s not that far away from this one (this film was released originally in 1979 but didn’t earn Oscar eligibility until it played LA in 1980).  Duvall is a force to be reckoned with in this film, the aging military man who refuses to believe that his day has long since passed him by.  Ebert would have you believe that Blythe Danner also belongs in this paragraph but her performance is just another woman who allows herself to be cowered by her brute of a husband and just wants the kids to be proud of him and love him in spite of his flaws and performances like hers are easy to find.

This is an uncomfortable film to watch and quite frankly, not all that good.  While I have no problem praising the acting I would never have thought to praise the writing.  Director Lewis John Carlino was primarily a writer and did hardly any directing after this film.  The film isn’t quite sure what it wants to be.  It wants to deal with racial issues, with growing up, with honor and loyalty, with a rigid value system but it deals with them all in cliches.  You can see almost every major moment coming from a mile away.  And when you watch O’Keefe force the family on the road for their new move in the middle of the night just like his father used to, you begin to wonder if anyone has had any growth at all.

The Source:

The Great Santini by Pat Conroy  (1976)

“It is often difficult for military officers to grasp the fact that the civilian world does not hold them in shivering awe.” (p 60)  I am glad I was able to find that quote again because this was one of the 20 film reviews I lost when my computer died in November of 2017.  But I found it without too much difficulty.  If I had encountered any difficulty, I would have abandoned it because I wasn’t going to suffer through much of Conroy’s novel yet again.  Reading the novel reminded me of a line from John Irving’s A Widow for One Year: “That poor boy never got over sleeping with your mother.” (I don’t have the book anymore, so the quote might not be 100% accurate).  It’s not that anyone sleeps with anyone’s mother in this book.  But Conroy never got over his brutal childhood with his bullying father and his fading mother.  Between reading this and The Prince of Tides you begin to wonder which one of them he hated more.  I loathe biographical criticism.  I don’t like trying to look at someone’s fiction and trying to figure out what really happened.  But when you’re a writer like Conroy and all you seem able to do is write about your life through a thinly fictional veil (made all the more obvious in the paperback edition of the book that I read which included an excerpt from “The Death of Santini” at the end), well then that’s kind of what you deserve.

The Adaptation:

Most of what you see in the film comes straight from the book.  The big exception is the end of the film where it becomes clear that Santini sacrifices himself in order to make certain the plane doesn’t land where it could kill civilians while in the book we get nothing about his final flight except that he doesn’t return from it.  But there’s a lot in the book that is kept out of the film, most notably the other friend who is the target of prejudice.  Yes, if it wasn’t enough of an object lesson to have the poor black friend, there is also a Jewish friend who is accused of raping his girlfriend and must flee for his life.  If you like Conroy, then enjoy.  But for me, I’m not really looking forward to 1991 when I’ll have to go through his relationship with his mother in Prince of Tides.

The Credits:

Based on the Novel by Pat Conroy.  Written for the Screen and Directed by Lewis John Carlino.

Hopscotch

The Film:

Ronald Neame began in film as a cinematographer, including some fantastic work on David Lean’s films in the 1940’s before becoming a director.  Cinematographers who become directors are often derided as being able to make their films look good without being able to tell a coherent story.  It’s ironic then that Neame’s films often don’t look all that interesting.  Even his best films (Tunes of Glory, The Horse’s Mouth, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – the first two of which starred Alec Guinness whom Neame had shot as a Lean star) don’t actually have that great a look to them.  He could, however, work with actors, as evidenced by Maggie Smith’s Oscar, Shelley Winters’ nomination in a genre not known for acting (The Poseidon Adventure) and the numerous performances that were Oscar worthy in The Horse’s Mouth, Tunes of Glory, The Chalk Garden and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  So now we get to the end of his career (he was nearing 70 by this time and would make just three more films after this).

In the aftermath of all the spy and conspiracy films of the 70’s, of riveting films like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor, we get here a film about a CIA agent, played with some droll and sly humor by Walter Matthau, who is being put out to pasture.  Matthau plays Miles Kendig, a man who doesn’t even bother to use a gun and is the opposite of the slick spy.  He just pays attention, stays where people won’t notice him and does what he is supposed to.  But an obnoxious, ambitious loudmouth, Myerson, played by Ned Beatty has taken over his division and he shuts Kendig down, shunting him to a desk that he refuses to be chained to.  Instead, he flees to Europe, to an old lover (played by Glenda Jackson in a role that is almost entirely wasted on her) and decides to expose the agency by writing his memoirs.  This just sets Beatty out to eliminate him and he enlists Kendig’s old protege, Joe Cutter (played quite well by Sam Waterston) to help him do it.  But Kendig is always one step ahead of them, at one point even hiding in Myerson’s house and ensuring that the FBI will destroy it thinking that Kendig is shooting at them.

There is some wit and some humor in the film, but it comes less from the script and more from Matthau’s performance.  He’s clearly the smartest person in the film but unfortunately the film doesn’t ever want to stop proving that to us.  Right down to the end, when he manages to fake his own death to get everyone off his back, the audience isn’t allowed to think, even for a minute, that he is actually dead (we actually see what has happened).  It wants to bludgeon us over the head with the notion that we should be rooting for Matthau and against anyone who might stand in his way.

All of this might make Hopscotch sound like a lesser film than it is (I actually have it as a high ***).  Because of Matthau’s winning performance this film is much more of a Comedy than a Suspense film like it could have been had it starred someone else.

The Source:

Hopscotch by Brian Garfield (1975)

Did seeing on the dust jacket that Brian Garfield was the author of the original novel Death Wish influence my feelings on the book as I was reading it?  I don’t know that it did because the character in this novel is so different than the character in Death Wish (which, I admit, I haven’t read but have seen the film).  Kendig, the former CIA agent is brilliant at everything he does.  He wins big money at cards, gets a woman he can barely bothered to care about, decides to get revenge against his former boss and leads the CIA on a wild goose chase before faking his own death so they can’t bother him anymore.  He seems to do it all, not because he really wants to get back at the CIA, but because he’s so god damned bored with his life now that he’s not working at the CIA.

This is a serviceable thriller that gets a little annoying since Kendig is so obviously smarter than everyone else he goes up against that it gets a little boring itself.  There’s not much humor to it and I was tired of it long before it ended.  But it could have been much worse.

The Adaptation:

This is at least the third time where I read the source material and really didn’t like the main character but found myself tolerating him much more on the screen because of a winning performance from Walter Matthau (see also Pete n Tillie and A New Leaf).  By the end of the second chapter, I couldn’t stand Kendig in the book and the way he just doesn’t care about anything.  But the film, first, gives Matthau more to work with (we actually see why he is bounced from his position unlike in the book where Kendig is bored and winning big money in cards and beautiful women after having already left the agency) and second, because it has Matthau, it turns what is a serviceable thriller into a comedy.  To that end, they also decide to add a love interest (the Glenda Jackson character isn’t in the book at all).

There are a number of scenes in the film that mirror the book perfectly (namely the scenes in the house in Georgia) which is surprising given how much they decided to depart from it.  But for the most part, the film decided to take the framework of the book and write its own story on top of that, right down to the end (in the book the memoir is never actually published but rather destroyed in the fake death scene).

The Credits:

directed by Ronald Neame.  based on the novel by Brian Garfield.  screenplay by Brian Garfield and Bryan Forbes.

Other Screenplays on My List Outside My Top 10

(in descending order of how I rank the script)

  • Floating Clouds  –  Strong (***.5) Japanese Drama from Mikio Naruse from 1955 finally getting a U.S. release.  Based on the novel by Fumiko Hayashi (who had several of her novels filmed by Naruse).
  • The Brothers Karamazov  –  The 1969 Soviet version of the novel.  Since I cut it from the Top 10, I slotted it in with my piece on the novel as the #2 novel of all-time.
  • The Master and Margaret  –  I didn’t have to slot this one in.  The 1972 Yugoslav version of the brilliant novel (#84 all-time) can be found here in my piece on the novel.

Other Adaptations

(in descending order of how good the film is)

  • Vengeance is Mine  –  High *** Crime film from Japanese director Shohei Imamura.  Based on the book by Ryūzō Saki about a real Japanese serial killer.
  • Christ Stopped at Eboli  –  This Italian adaptation of the book by Carlo Levi was released over time, playing Cannes in 1979, the States here in 1980 and winning the first BAFTA Foreign Film award two years after that.
  • The Blues Brothers  –  Since the characters were created for SNL sketches, I suppose this does count as adapted.  A bit uneven but a lot of it is funny as hell and it has a magnificent soundtrack.
  • The Bugs Bunny / Road Runner Movie  –  Not so much a movie as linked Looney Tunes sketches but they’re great sketches.
  • Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!)  –  The last of the original Peanuts feature films with the gang going to Europe.
  • Don Giovanni  –  Joseph Losey directs Mozart’s opera.  We’ve hit mid ***.
  • Nick Carter in Prague  –  Also known as Dinner for Adele, this was the Czech submission for Best Foreign Film in 1978.  It counts as adapted because it makes use of the pulp character Nick Carter.
  • Brubaker  –  Fictionalized version of a real prison scandal in Arkansas that was detailed in the book Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal.  It was nominated by the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay but at this point I’m not going to bother with it if the Academy can’t figure out its own rules.
  • Zigeunerweisen  –  The first part of Seijun Suzuki’s Taisho Roman Trilogy is based on the novel Disk of Sarasate.
  • The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith  –  An early film from Fred Schepisi adapts the Thomas Keneally novel (when that was still probably his best known work before he wrote Schindler’s Ark).
  • Empire of Passion  –  The Japanese 1978 Foreign Film submission from director Nagisa Oshima.  Based on the novel by Itoko Nakamura.
  • Tribute  –  Mostly forgotten film that earned Jack Lemmon an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (by far the weakest of his Oscar nominated performances), it’s based on the play by Bernard Slade.
  • The Colour of Pomegranate  –  A 1969 Soviet biopic of the Armenian singer Sayat-Nova based on his songs.
  • The Fiancee  –  The West German submission for Best Foreign Film in 1980, based on the novel by Eva Lippold.
  • Heart Beat  –  The story of the Beats as told through Carolyn Cassady, Neal’s wife with Nick Nolte as Cassady and John Heard as Kerouac.
  • Inside Moves  –  John Savage plays a wheelchair bound man who plays basketball.  Based on the novel by Todd Walton.  Oscar nominated for Supporting Actress (Diana Scarwid).
  • Urban Cowboy  –  This movie has been on one of the premium stations a lot lately and I occasionally turn it on just to see young Debra Winger then turn it off because it’s low ***.  Based on an article from Esquire.
  • Somewhere in Time  –  The end of this film made my sister bawl but so did the end of the second story arc in Battlestar Galactica (Jane Seymour is involved in both).  Based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson (better known for I Am Legend).  This was the Christopher Reeve film between the first two Superman films.  We’re into **.5 films now.
  • The Canterbury Tales  –  The second in Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life (the third is below), based on the famous Chaucer book.  Released in Italy in 1972 but not released in the States until 1980, five years after Pasolini was murdered.
  • Nijinsky  –  Herbert Ross, more known for Neil Simon films, directs an adaptation of the famous ballet dancer’s diaries.
  • Why Shoot the Teacher?  –  Canadian adaptation of the novel by Max Braithwaite.
  • Honeysuckle Rose  –  Most well known for Willie Nelson’s Oscar nominated song “On the Road Again” (the film sometimes bears that title).  The old oscars.org listed it as adapted but the only evidence I see is that two of the writers are credited with the “story” so perhaps it pre-existed.
  • The Getting of Wisdom  –  More Australian filmmaking with Bruce Beresford again, based on the novel by Henry Handel Richardson.
  • Popeye  –  Robert Altman’s famous disaster of a film version of the famous comic strip and cartoon short with Robin Williams as the title character.  Not terrible but definitely flawed.
  • The Hunter  –  Most well-known as Steve McQueen’s last film role.  Based on the novel by Christopher Kean.
  • The Sea Wolves  –  A real World War II incident became the novel Boarding Party by James Leasor which became this mediocre mid **.5 film with two of the stars of The Guns of Navarone (Gregory Peck, David Niven) designed to remind you of their better film of this sort.
  • Altered States  –  Paddy Chayefsky adapts his own novel (directed by Ken Russell) and this film has devoted fans but I’m not one.  Interesting but the story-telling is just a mess.
  • Little Miss Marker  –  It was better in 1934 when it was made with Shirley Temple.  Based on the story by Damon Runyon.
  • Rough Cut  –  Burt Reynolds a jewel thief.  Directed by Don Siegel.  Based on the novel Touch the Lion’s Paw.
  • Just Tell Me What You Want  –  The last leading role for Ali MacGraw (yay!) and the last film ever for Myrna Loy is a mediocre effort from Sidney Lumet with Jay Presson Allen adapting her own novel.
  • The Mirror Crack’d  –  I’m not a fan of Angela Lansbury, at least older Lansbury and Miss Marple makes me roll my eyes so Lansbury playing Marple is not for me.  The third of the all-star Christie adaptations of the era but we’ll back to Ustinov as Poirot for the fourth in 1982.
  • Any Which Way You Can  –  Now we’re down to low **.5.  Every Which Way But Loose was a big hit so of course they made a sequel, although to be fair, this film made 75% of what the first film made which is actually a much better ratio than Empire.
  • Arabian Nights  –  The finale in the Trilogy of Life and the penultimate film directed by Pasolini.
  • Twice a Woman  –  George Sluizer Drama adapted from the novel by Harry Mulisch.
  • Herbie Goes Bananas  –  The fourth Herbie film and it’s starting to definitely run dry.
  • Flash Gordon  –  Now we’ve hit ** and I explain why in my full review which you can find here.  I had a lot of fun writing that review and this film to me is the very definition of a guilty pleasure.  Based on the comic strip character created in 1934 (to compete with Buck Rogers who had his own film the year before).
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps  –  Don Sharp, a mediocre Hammer director, remakes a Hitchcock classic though it’s at least closer to the original novel.
  • The Tin Drum  –  I can’t decide if the film (which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film) is more over-rated or if the novel (which is critically acclaimed but I found to be unreadable) is.
  • Hide in Plain Sight  –  Another story that was real life then a novel and then a mediocre film, this one starring James Caan.
  • The Lady Vanishes  –  Another Hitchcock remake, this one the last film from Hammer Studios for 28 years.  Sadly, it’s a dud (and not even Horror) with Cybill Shepherd, Elliott Gould and Angela Lansbury.
  • ffolkes  –  Released as North Sea Hijack in the U.K. and retitled Assault Force for American television, this mediocre Action film with Roger Moore was based on a novel called Esther, Ruth and Jennifer so whatever they called the film was going to better than that.
  • Tom Horn  –  Even weaker than The Hunter, so it’s good that this was only Steve McQueen’s penultimate film.  A Western based on the writings from the actual cowboy Tom Horn.  We’re down to mid **.
  • Touched by Love  –  Based on a novel called To Elvis, With Love this is more of an Afterschool Special.  Notable for having the same performance (Deborah Raffin) nominated for a Globe and a Razzie in the initial year of the Razzies.
  • The Outsider  –  An attempt to make a serious film about The Troubles fails miserably.  Based on the novel The Heritage of Michael Flaherty.
  • Gamera: Super Monster  –  The eighth Gamera film, the last of the Shõwa series and the last until 1995.
  • The Man with Bogart’s Face  –  It’s a Comedy but it’s not funny.  Based on the novel by Andrew J. Fenady who also wrote the script and produced the film.
  • The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu  –  The final film of Peter Sellers, released two weeks after he died with Sellers playing the famous criminal although, as you may guess, it’s a Comedy.
  • Inferno  –  A thematic sequel to Suspiria but it’s really adapted because it’s also from the de Quincey writings.
  • The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark  –  Dumb Disney film with Elliot Gould and Genevieve Bujold from a story called “The Gremlin’s Castle”.
  • The First Deadly Sin  –  The final film of Frank Sinatra though he would live quite a while yet and supposedly the film debut of Bruce Willis as an extra.  Sinatra is actually playing the same detective that Ralph Meeker played in The Anderson Tapes (this book was the second in a series).
  • The Blue Lagoon  –  Brooke Shields was so awful she won the initial Razzie and she turned 15 just a few weeks after the film opened so that’s not actually her ass in the film but that didn’t stop people from flocking to see it.  Based on the novel by Henry De Vere Stacpoole.  We’ve now reached low **.  Nice Oscar-nominated Cinematography, bad film.
  • Smokey and the Bandit II  –  The first of the *.5 films.  Totally absent of any of the charm from the first film.  It made money (the 8th biggest film of the year) but only half of what the first film made.
  • The Formula  –  The first of the Razzie nominees for Worst Picture on this list (six of the 10 nominees are adapted though not the winner).  Yet, it also earned an Oscar nomination for Cinematography while Kagemusha and The Elephant Man did not.  Based on the novel by Steve Shagan and directed by former Oscar winner John G. Avildsen.
  • The Awakening  –  The first feature film from Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel The Jewel of Seven Stars (a Mummy story), bad in spite of all that it’s just awful.
  • The Island  –  The novel (by Peter Benchley, author of Jaws) and this adaptation that hadn’t even been made yet were both obliquely trashed in Final Cut, the brilliant book about Heaven’s Gate when the executives at UA turned the book down knowing it was terrible and would be a terrible film.  They were right.  This is the start of the * films.
  • The Nude Bomb  –  The second Razzie nominee for Worst Picture, a film version of Get Smart.  It’s worth noting that the show’s co-creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry weren’t involved in the film at all.
  • Cruising  –  Based on the novel by Gerald Walker this infamous film about a serial killer targeting gays in New York City was heavily protested when it was filmed but is also just a terrible film.  The third Razzie nominee.
  • The Jazz Singer  –  The fourth Razzie nominee, this is a remake of the 1927 film that introduced sound with Neil Diamond in the title role.  It does have the song “America” which may not be a selling point depending on your feelings on the song (it’s actually one of my favorite songs by Diamond).  Diamond was nominated for the Globe but he won the Razzie.
  • When Time Ran Out  –  The last of the feature films produced by Irwin Allen (thankfully), this disaster film is based on The Day the World Ended by Gordon Thomas about the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée.  I could say that as the third deadliest volcano eruption in recorded history it deserved a better film but the second worst was Krakatoa and it got an even worse film back in 1969.
  • Les Charlots contre Dracula  –  It’s got Dracula so it’s adapted.  It’s also a French Comedy and it’s terrible.
  • Raise the Titanic!  –  The fifth Razzie nominee and we’ve dropped to low *.  Crappy Adventure film based on the Clive Cussler novel.
  • Where the Buffalo Roam  –  Ostensibly based on the two articles Hunter Thompson wrote about Oscar Acosta (though, of course, let’s take the famous Latino lawyer and have him played by a white guy) but it’s just truly awful, even though those are two of Thompson’s best pieces.  Bill Murray is okay as Hunter but everything else about the film is utter shit.
  • Xanadu  –  We drop to .5 films now with this roller skating remake of Down to Earth which was the sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan.  Sadly, the final film role for Gene Kelly.  The soundtrack, also terrible, was a huge seller at the time though you can easily find it in 50¢ bins anywhere now.  The last of the Razzie nominees (and, along with Razzie winner Can’t Stop the Music, one of two films that prompted the start of the awards).
  • Caligula  –  Is it adapted?  The film credits it being adapted from an original screenplay by Gore Vidal.  The old oscars.org listed it as adapted but I don’t remember if they listed Vidal as the source.  What is not in question is how awful it is, not just the worst film on this list, not just the worst film of the year, but the worst film ever made, a reprehensible film free of any redeeming value on any level.  My full review is in here, way down towards the bottom and that review also has the link to my Worst Film Ever Made discussion.

Adaptations of Notable Works I Haven’t Seen

  • none